Women Artists. Breaking Down Barriers

An exhibition at the Musee national des beaux arts du Quebec

Lucie Duval, La coquille  1997.jpg
Photo: MNBAQ

Lucie Duval, La Coquille - 1997

The previous exhibition of works by women artists, held last year at the Museum national des beaux-arts du Quebec, demonstrated how, in the first part of the 20th century (1900-1965), a few women had worked to establish themselves on the artistic scene in Quebec. With the feminist movement of the 1970's, the number of women artists increased significantly and significant as well was the number of studies published on the art they created.

Feminism is a factor that cannot be overlooked when we consider the development of the arts by women in Quebec, and more generally in the western world. The movement coincided with the introduction of new styles and artistic expressions, and also of new ideas in a very particular political context. However, it is important to note that, as art critic Lucy R. Lippart once point out, the art born out of or after the feminist movement is neither of a particular style, nor a movement in itself. It did however bring a new set of values, a revolutionary way of thinking, and a new way of life. The present exhibition: Women Artists. Breaking Down Barriers: 1965-2000, proves this to be true.

The title says it all. If indeed in the early nineteen sixties women artists had won the battle, the war was far from being over. Because their creations had been marginalised for centuries, because they systematically were associated with words such as decoration, pattern, fabric, craft... women continued the struggle to break the barrier and be part of the mainstream. Have they succeeded? Absolutely!

I am usually against the use of the term «woman artists», arguing that what they create is not significantly different. In spite of this, I must admit that, in touring the exhibition, it seemed to me that something stood out as an element that would be typically feminine: The diary aspect of many of the works. Of course, in the pieces by Louise Robert and by Marie-Claude Bouthillier, there are writings intended to be read or simply seen. This is not, however why I make reference to a dairy. What I felt was the expression of an inner self that transpires in many of the works, traditional paintings and drawings, sculptures, photographs and installations that obviously carry a load of emotions, sensations and feelings.

It is impossible for me to make comments on specific works. That would take too much time and space. I can however strongly recommend to whoever reads these lines to make it a point to see this exhibition before it closes on October 10, 2010 and to get the catalogue. It's a major document!